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The many meanings of roses

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by Colour Your Life • Thursday May 3, 2018

The rose is deeply embedded in folklore and its association with romance and love is core to western traditions, as anyone who has tried to buy roses around Valentines day knows all too well!  In England it has strong connections with nationhood as Henry VII created the Tudor rose from the old symbols of the Houses of York and Lancaster to engender a sense of unity within the country following decades of fighting. 

Roses have also been strongly symbolic of the labour movement, especially since 1945, but as early as 1908, striking textile workers in New York took the rose as their symbol in their successful campaign for shorter working hours and better wages.  Their battle cry was ‘bread and roses’.  It is, however, with romance that most people will associate roses, but not everyone will realise the subtle differences in meaning that each colour conveys.  Did you know, for example that a gift of white roses tells the recipient that they are heavenly or that yellow signifies ‘I am not worthy of your love?’  Pink says ‘please believe me’ whereas red is quite simply ‘I love you’. 


In terms of their physical appeal, colour, scent, form and abundance combine to make them the most winning of plant packages, but don’t forget about the thorns.  Shakespeare makes sure we remember the pleasure and pain of the rose (‘even the rose has it’s thorns’) and so many song writers and poets have made great use of this ambiguity as they seek to capture the essence of love.   

As garden plants, roses continue to offer so much.  A long flowering period, incredible diversity to choose from, long-lived and with the varieties that we are able to enjoy today, easy to care for too.  The range of choices is a whole world for you to to discover! 

As bushes, roses are ideal in borders – for maximum impact group two or more together.  They can be grown over walls, fences and buildings as climbers and ramblers.  There are even very hardy roses (Rosa rugosa) which may be grown as flowering windbreaks in coastal or otherwise exposed locations.  Roses growing up trellises or trained around doors and windows are stylistic signatures of the British summer garden.  There are also dwarf roses that are perfect for growing in pots, but make sure your pot is big enough because even dwarfs have long root

Roses like growing in sunny positions, but don’t let their roots dry out, especially as they are establishing in a new place.  Feeding twice a year, just after flowering and at the end of winter will ensure best flowering and strong plants tend to be healthiest and most able to resist pests. 

Grow roses because they will fill you with joy whenever you look at them.  Ask at your local garden centre about the best varieties for your soil and situation and look forward to years of pleasure. 

1 comment

  • Robert J. Robert J. We grow many old roses. The Gallica roses , Centifolia roses particularly Chapeau de Napolan, Rugosa roses and Burnet Roses do well in the damp climate of Cornwall, Modern HT roses are very prone to black spot in damp climate. Some roses are quite shade tolerant such as Rambling rector.
    Our favourite are the Old double Burnet Scottish Roses which were fashionable from about 1780 to 1840. Double pink and double white which which are produced in great profusion in late May early June. They grow on their own root stocks and form a thicket of thorny growth and have fine ferny foliage, They make an excellent low hedge.
    The only drawback is that they only flower in May/June
    Friday May 15, 2015 at 14:55

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